Tastings of any sort (oil, vinegar, cheese, ham): Venice/Ravenna/Bologna/Milan
We're doing Venice/Ravenna/Bologna/Milan next week for our honeymoon, and we wanted to know if the Chowhound community had any recommendations for particularly neat specific-ingredient experiences along this itinerary (i.e., parmeggiano-reggiano factory tours, balsamic vinegar tastings, etc).
We're trying to get into a parmesan factory near Bologna [no tours available next week in Parma, unfortunately], and we know about a mozzarella bar over in Milan, and we're looking for more of these sorts of experiences, where you come home and you swear never again to buy the cheapest balsamic vinegar at the supermarket, and you know something about where these ingredients come from. Any tips? Budget friendly tips are especially appreciated! (We can't afford some of the more elaborate, pre-packaged foodie tours!)
There are other ways to tour besides through parmagolosa - we toured the related parmesan factory through our agriturismo near Parma for a fee. http://www.agriturismoleoni.com/eng/countryhouse.htm. We really liked this - they showed us the related cow (where the milk comes from) and pig (where the whey goes and parma ham meat comes from) facilities as well. I suspect you would need a car for this however. Tour takes a couple of hours from the agriturismo.
You can also tour balsamic vinegar lofts and do tastings in the Modena area - go to the trade association website.http://www.balsamico.it/ - some are in the town of Modena, some in the surrounding countryside. There is a similar consortium of producers in reggio emilia. this stuff is pricy, you can buy it all around the area - just remember to get at least one bottle of "Tradizionale" - the classically aged stuff.
If you go to either Parma or Modena, please be sure to tour the town and eat a meal - both have fantastic food and beautiful cultural sites.
Another place to taste and also have a fine meal is the Osteria di Rubbiara near Nonantola (in the country 12 km from Modena and between Bologna and Modena. They have a vinegar loft you can tour and also make artisanal liqueurs (a big thing in this region) http://www.acetaiapedroni.it/default....
If you use the translation tool on the google tool bar you will have an easier time with the italian websites and you wont be limited to the places that want to fleece the rich tourists.
Good luck! pre-planning and reservations make a big difference in a trip of this kind.
If you find yourself there next week and without reservations for a cheese tour, you might try what we did last fall. All tours were booked weeks ahead. We asked at the tourist office in Parma, and a private tour was arranged at a small family run farm. We were there for nearly two hours! It was just outside of town, and we took a cab. The name of the farm was San Pier Damiani. I speak some Italian so that helped, as they spoke no English (be sure to ask about this!). The people in the tourist office were very friendly and helpful.
Just wanted to throw up on here a link to an italian newspaper article which summarizes some of the great eating around Parma. Use google translation feature to figure it out.
I particularly recommend Il Biance Cavallino linked to the Antica Corte Pallavicino Estate in Polesine Parmense http://www.acpallavicina.com/relais/v...
the establishment is wonderful and scenic and in addition to the great food in the restaurant and the elegant lodgings they offer a wide range of tours and courses in the local foods (they themselves make amazing meats, including culatello and spirits)
Hopefully you were able to try Mirto, a very nice herbal liquor. Unique and a specialty item available only there. And cave aged Proscuitto... there's nothing like the flavors of terroir of a dirt floor aging room, wow there's some great flavors there, taste every one you can from all the 'local' meat markets, get up real early! Check to see if there are any friendly 'locals' that may be willing to share or show you their cave, maybe you'll make a friend while you're there. Send yourself some Proscuitto home, it's well worth it cause the cost is different, there are quite a few that can be shipped. Also... purchase tickets from expedia.com.it and see the difference vs. u.s.a. Hope you had a great time!